Thanksgiving 2012

Wow, I am so behind, two holidays have already come and gone since my last post! I’ll start catching up with Thanksgiving.

For Thanksgiving week our original plans were to meet up with some friends in Orlando for a week of Disney fun. On the morning we were to leave, I woke up feeling dizzy and could barely walk because the room was spinning so badly. I worked my way into the shower only to make things worse. As soon as the water hit me, I started throwing up and couldn’t stop. Rob took me to the doctor’s office and I’m still thinking the doctor can fix me and we can make our flight in 3 hours. Boy was I wrong!

His diagnosis was an inner ear infection and he gave me a shot for the nausea, antibiotics and steroids. He told me there was no way I could fly with my ear infection. Rob broke the news to Liam and he was so sweet about it and was just worried about me and not missing the trip. Best kid ever, more worried about his Momma than missing Disney!

I was out of it for the next few days. My ear was not feeling any better by the weekend so I went to an urgent care center. The doctor there confirmed that I had an inner ear infection and just needed to give the meds time to work.

On Monday, I returned to my regular doctor and told him it had been a week and my ear wasn’t any better and I had finished all my meds. He gave me different steroids to take and told me it would take time. I just knew something wasn’t right because I have had ear infections before and this one wasn’t the same.

I scheduled an appointment with an ENT (Ear, Nose, Throat) doctor and couldn’t get an appointment for 2 weeks. Luckily, a week later, the ENT office called and said they had a cancellation. The doctor examined me and told me that I did not have an inner ear infection. His diagnosis was sudden sensorineural hearing loss. What? He said that it was unfortunate that I hadn’t been diagnosed sooner because the best chance of recovering my hearing was within the first 72 hours after it occurred. I was now 14 days out and he said he wouldn’t even treat me if I was 21 days out. He also said that it is common for general doctors to misdiagnose this as an inner ear infection because it is not that common and has all the same symptoms.

Over the next week, I did 3 treatments of cortisone injections thru my eardrum into the middle ear. Yeah, it was as pleasant as it sounds. None of the treatments had any effect on my hearing and I had to persuade the doctor to even do the 3rd treatment. I figured I had nothing to lose doing all 3 treatments. In the end, the treatments didn’t help but I would’ve always wondered had I not done the 3rd one.

He is not certain what caused it, my blood tests and MRI did not show anything, but his best guess is that it was some sort of viral infection that I had that attacked my ear. I now have only about 10-20% of hearing in my left ear and constantly hear a high-pitched hissing in that ear that is called tinnitus.

A few days before Christmas they made a mold of my ear for a hearing aid fitting. He is hoping that the TransEar type hearing aid will allow me to regain my ability to distinguish sound direction again. It should be ready for me to test sometime after the new year.

I still can’t believe this happened and I hold out hope that my hearing will return on its own one day. In the meantime, I hope that reading this post will help someone else if it happens to them. If you ever wake up dizzy, throwing up and have problems with your ear, RUSH to the emergency room and request an ENT. The faster they start the treatments, the better chance you have of regaining your hearing. If anyone reading this has had sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSD), I would love to hear about year experience and outcome.

Up next…Christmas post!

The Tooth Fairy is Headed Our Way

One of Liam’s bottom front teeth has been loose for a few weeks now. I decided yesterday that I better get to the craft store and figure out something cool for him to put the tooth in for the Tooth Fairy. I found this Melissa & Doug Wooden Treasure Chest and we went to work on painting & decorating it this morning and we were both pleased with the finished product:

Tooth Fairy Box

Tooth Fairy Box Inside

We finished it just in the nick of time! Not 2 hours later, Liam came in the room holding his tooth. I’m not 100% convinced it was coincidence that it “fell” out as soon as the box was finished, but either way, the Tooth Fairy will be paying us a visit tonight for the first time!

Liam's first lost tooth

A Sign of Our Times

I’ve discovered yet another thing that our child (and the rest of what Rob calls Generation Z) will never know during Liam’s visit to the optometrist last week.

Until now his eye exams have consisted of the doctor pretty much just shining a light through a prism into his eyes, seeing how his pupils react, and making an educated guess about the prescription needed to correct his vision. Back when Liam was 2, the doctor explained to us that with young children he couldn’t do any type of formal exam but he would be able to get better readings the older that he got. Well, with this visit, he got Liam to read a symbol chart.

Instead of the standard E’s pointing each direction chart, what’s used for toddlers and pre-K kids is a picture chart like the one below: (sorry about the image quality, it’s the best I could find on the web):

Childrens vision test picture chart

The doctor asked about the first symbol and Liam identified it as a cake. When asked how many candles, he correctly answered “3.” So far, so good.

But when the doc started on the second row, he asked about the first symbol and Liam said it was a shirt with a pocket. That’s when it hit me — Liam has no reference to know that symbol is an old-style telephone. All the phones he’s ever seen are either cordless or cell phones. I mentioned this to my friend who works at the doctor’s office and she said most kids call the telephone symbol a shirt.

I’m always amazed by things like this because it makes me wonder what else will have no meaning to our future generations.

Vitamin Me

Vitamins. They’re cheap insurance against so-so diet & lifestyle choices. Vitamin E, in particular, is known to be a very powerful, anti-aging, cancer-fighting, heart-protecting antioxidant, so Dede & I have always been diligent about taking that supplement.

But I’d never thought much about the source of the vitamins we take, just focusing instead on faithfully taking them every day. Then last week, I read that while the natural vs. synthetic forms of most vitamins are usually chemically identical, Vitamin E is quite different. Maybe I’ve been hanging around pharmacists too much, but this really picqued my interest so I dug in and read a lot more. I’d like to share a few things I’ve learned:

“Vitamin E” is the collective term for a family of eight compounds: four tocopherols (alpha, beta, gamma, & delta) and four tocotrienols (alpha, beta, gamma & delta.) Tocopherols are the most studied components of Vitamin E as they have the highest bioavailability.
vitamin e capsule
Our bodies have specific binding & transport proteins for using natural, food-based Vitamin E and largely ignores all other forms. Okay wait, that bears repeating: your liver actually works to rid itself of synthetic Vitamin E as quickly as possible! In effect, synthetic Vitamin E is all but worthless.

What’s more, I discovered that synthetic Vitamin E is derived from petrochemicals (via an unholy-sounding chemical reaction between TMHQ with isophytol) and includes BHA and BHT, nasty petroleum-based preservatives which are believed to be carcinogenic. (These are also found in lots of highly-processed foods like snacks & packaged baked goods, all the more reason to avoid those whenever possible.)

So, natural Vitamin E is 3-4 times more efficient and is the only form you should take!

But how do you know what you’re buying?

It’s easy to determine which type you’re getting once you know what to look for: natural forms of Vitamin E have d- before the compound name (for example d-alpha tocopherol) and synthetic forms are labeled with a dl- prefix.

Some practical tips gleaned from the head-scratching scientific hooey I read:

  • Even with the natural forms of Vitamin E, many capsules supply only the alpha compound but studies indicate that a “mixed” formulation that includes the other three types of tocopherols is far more effective.
  • If you take both Vitamin E and iron supplements, take them at different times of the day. Also, inorganic forms of iron (such as ferrous sulfate) destroy Vitamin E but organic iron (ferrous gluconate or ferrous fumarate) leaves Vitamin E intact.
  • Taken on an empty stomach, Vitamin E’s absorption is reduced by an average of 50%, so this supplement is best taken with some food.
  • To get more of this vital vitamin via the food you eat, go for leafy green vegetables, tuna, almonds, sunflower seeds, avocados, sweet potatoes, kiwi, tomatoes, peaches, and grapes.

Sunscreen Sundries

sun scale
Summertime is in full swing and you’re probably having lots of fun in the sun but there’s nothing more sure to spoil your fun than a nasty sunburn. So, in addition to reminding you to Slip, Slop, Slap, Wrap as you prepare to head out the door, I thought I’d also share some interesting sunscreen trivia & info:

  • The ancient Greeks used olive oil as a type of sunscreen, although it wasn’t especially effective.
  • The first effective, mass-produced sunscreen was invented in 1944 by airman turned pharmacist Benjamin Greene who was looking to protect World War II soldiers stationed in the South Pacific from the sun’s harmful rays. Greene tested the sticky, red substance which he called “Red Vet Pet” on his own bald head. After the war, he refined the formula and sold it under the new company name, Coppertone.
  • Sunscreens work by either blocking or absorbing ultraviolet light. Opaque minerals like titanium dioxide or zinc oxide physically block or scatter UVA (the “aging” rays) whereas chemical blockers like avobenzone and Mexoryl SX absorb UVB (the “burning” rays) and dissipate that as heat. You should select a sunscreen that combines these two approaches for a broader spectrum of protection—look for one with at least 7% of one of the physical blocker ingredients (zinc is better!) and an SPF of at least 30.
  • SPF, or Sun Protection Factor, was introduced in 1962 as a measurement of a product’s ability to block out the sun’s burning rays. Note that more is not necessarily better with SPF. Stick with a product with an SPF of 30-50. Sunscreens with an SPF of 70, 90, or even 100+ certainly sound impressive, but they’re only marginally better, if at all.
  • The FDA has proposed a “star-rating” system to identify the level of UVA protection found in sunscreen, with 1 star indicating low and 4 stars indicating the highest UVA protection available in an over-the-counter product. The proposal also mandates that sunscreens which do not provide at least a minimal level of UVA protection must bear a “no UVA protection” marking on the front label near the SPF value.
  • Researchers suggest the most effective protection is achieved by generously applying sunscreen 15–30 minutes before exposure, followed by a reapplication 15–30 minutes after the sun exposure begins. But you also need to reapply every 2–3 hours and after swimming in order for the sunscreen to remain effective.
  • There’s mounting evidence that sunscreens containing retinyl palmitate (vitamin A) should be avoided because when used topically, this ingredient may actually increase your risk of skin cancer. For more info on this and much, much more, be sure to check out the Environmental Working Group’s Sunscreen Guide. (Link updated for 2012.)
  • Cover up! Although UV rays can still penetrate them, using a wide-brimmed hat and clothing made of tightly-woven fibers can significantly boost your sun protection. And don’t forget to use sun-blocking lip balm and UV-protectant sunglasses!

Bonus trivia: Hippos spend up to 16 hours a day submerged in water to stay cool. But while the water prevents the lumbering mammals from getting overheated, it doesn’t offer much in the way of skin protection. So the hippopotamus produce their own sunscreen! They secrete a highly-acidic, blood-red, gelatinous, oily fluid from glands underneath the skin that protects them from UV rays and insects.

Food For Thought: Smorgasbord

smorgasbord banner

Today’s entry in the week-long Food For Thought series is a veritable smorgasbord of assorted food-related topics:

  • Finding locally-produced foods can sometimes be a bit difficult, especially if you don’t live in an agriculturally-diverse area.   Two websites that can make locating local farmers & growers much easier are Local Harvest and Eat Well Guide.   Both are online directories of sustainable food suppliers, searchable by location, where you can just enter your Zip Code and get a list for your area.
  • Did you know that the crust is the best part of bread?   It not only contains 8 times more antixodants, but is also rich in dietary fiber, which can help prevent colon cancer.   So, don’t trim the crusts off of your kids’ sandwiches!
  • The typical American breakfast of cereal, lowfat milk, & orange juice — often recommended by dietitians & doctors alike — is a nightmare!   According to some, the processing involved with the manufacture of much of our food riddles it with oxidants known to cause degenerative diseases such as cancer, heart disease, brain dysfunction, and cataracts.

    For example, naturally-occurring cholesterol in fresh dairy products is used by your body to build & strengthen cell membranes, muscles, brain & nerve tissue.   But the drying process in making powdered milk — which is commonly used as a thickener in skim & lowfat milk — oxidizes the cholesterol which, once oxidized, can longer be used but instead collects along the walls of arteries.

  • If you cook, you’ll want to bookmark the Cook’s Thesaurus right now!   It’s a kitchen encyclopedia that covers thousands of ingredients & tools with pictures, descriptions, synonyms, and pronunciations of each.   But what’ll bring you back — and just may save a holiday meal — are the suggested substitutions.

    (Who knew you could substitute 3 tbsp. mayonnaise, ¼ cup of applesauce, or half a mashed ripe banana plus ¼ tsp. baking powder for each egg in a recipe?)

  • Honey can be a surprisingly effective, easy, & inexpensive solution for some allergy sufferers.   Ingesting small amounts of the airborne pollens that are also contained in the honey helps your body to build up a natural resistance to the allergens.   So adding a couple of teaspoons of local, pure, wildflower honey into your daily diet can decrease (and possibly even prevent) seasonal allergies.

    However, this is typically not what’s found in the cute little bear-shaped jars in the supermarket because mass-produced honey is stripped of its medicinal value via processing & heat sterilization.   And commercial bees are often fed corn syrup rather than their own honey, which diminishes the health of the hive as in addition to decreasing the nutritive benefits of the honey.   So look for locally-harvested (try within a 50 mile radius of your house), unpasteurized, unfiltered, 100% pure wildflower honey — the kind that you commonly find at farmers’ markets or produce stands.

  • For complete nutritional data on honey and a whole host of other health-promoting foods, visit the World’s Healthiest Foods.   This website, run by The George Mateljan Foundation (a not-for-profit foundation with no commercial interests) aims to discover, develop, and share scientifically-proven information about the benefits of healthy eating.
  • Foster Farms, a California poultry company, created the Say No To Plumping campaign.   Plumping is the practice of needlessly injecting chickens with saltwater, stock, seaweed extract, or other fluids to radically increase sodium content, weight, and price—which the USDA estimates costs Americans up to $2 billion annually!
  • High fructose corn syrup has become so abundant & incredibly cheap that manufacturers sneak it into practically everything.   HFCS is used liberally even in foods that have no need for any sweetener in them.

    But if it isn’t bad enough that so much of our foods are secretly loaded with the stuff, we now we find out that HFCS is contaminated with mercury.   Two studies recently found significant traces of the toxic metal in 30-50% of sampled foods containing HFCS.   So if you weren’t sufficiently convinced of the evils of HFCS before, it’s high time to reconsider!

Do you have some interesting morsel of food-related goodness to share?   Be sure to leave a comment to be entered in the book giveaway at the end of this Food For Thought week!

How Am I Unlike a Turnip?

Well, for starters, you can get blood from me.   In fact, I give the stuff away fairly often.

I’m a big proponent of donating blood.   Giving blood is a simple & very charitable gesture; a single pint of blood given by a donor can help to save the lives of as many as three people.   But Shelly Tucker over at This Eclectic Life reminded me of another great reason to give blood…

Before any blood is collected, you must first complete a brief medical history questionnaire.   It’s also at this time that a mini-physical is performed, during which your blood pressure, pulse, temperature, and your hematocrit (the number of red cells in your blood) level are checked to ensure that you’re a eligible candidate.   And of course, after your blood is drawn, it’s thoroughly screened for diseases.   During these pre- and post-donation steps, sometimes conditions you were previously unaware of, like high blood pressure, for example, can turn up.   In Shelly’s case, she was shocked to learn that her blood tested positive for Hepatitis C antibodies, though (thankfully!) negative for the virus itself.   While this is certainly not news she would’ve wanted to hear, she now knows to alert her doctor to keep a close watch out for liver damage during future checkups.

Similarly — although much less seriously — I was alerted to an unknown problem when I went to give blood earlier this year.   I was turned away because of a low red blood cell count that was revealed during the pre-donation mini-physical.   I promptly made an appointment with Dr. Perlman for a follow-up on this and the initial bloodwork indicated internal bleeding.   After a number of tests and visits with Dr. Perlman and my bariatric surgeon Dr. Davenport, I was able to breathe a deep sigh of relief — they determined that I’ve developed pernicious anemia, caused by serious vitamin B12 & iron deficiencies due to malabsorption.   This type of anemia is readily treatable; I’ve been on corrective supplements for over 2 months now and have since been able to donate blood again.

Please note:   Blood donation screening tests are not diagnostic and are no substitute for routine annual physicals!   For your own sake as well as that of potential recipients, please don’t use blood donation for the purpose of screening!   If you suspect that there’s a problem, please see your doctor first!

This isn’t necessarily easy for everyone, of course.   Giving blood can cause queasiness & cold sweats and just the needle-stick alone is quite difficult for some people to tolerate.   However, you can take comfort in knowing that giving blood not only helps others but may also benefit you as well.   In fact, it stimulates the generation of red blood cells and there’s some evidence that suggests that giving blood may lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease.

So, what’s your take on this?   Do you donate blood?
 

Slip, Slop, Slap, Wrap

Sid the SeagullIn 1981, the Cancer Council Australia launched their very successful Slip, Slop, Slap skin health campaign.   Ads featured the program’s mascot, Sid the Seagull who encouraged people to "Slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen, and slap on a hat" when going out in the sun to reduce the risks of skin cancer.

The slogan was later extended to Slip, Slop, Slap, Wrap or "Slip on a shirt, slop on the sunscreen, slap on a hat, and wrap on some sunnies" to also promote the use of sunglasses.   (Even though this very effective campaign has resulted in far fewer incidences, Australia still has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world.)

It might seem a bit early to be talking about summertime skin care here in the middle of May, but with the forecast already calling for triple-digit temps, it’s pretty appropriate.   So as you gear up for outdoors activities, remember the "Slip, Slop, Slap, Wrap" slogan to protect yourself!

Sadly, despite best intentions, many of us will still end up sunburned at least once during the Summer months.   If you find yourself looking rather lobester-esqe, head over to WiseBread for some !
 

Go Nuts in March

National Peanut Month is upon us!   What began as National Peanut Week in 1941, expanded to a month-long celebration in 1974.   And it’s probably no coincidence that March is also National Nutrition Month because the lowly peanut is quite the nutritional powerhouse!

peanut graphicWhile peanuts aren’t actually nuts—they’re legumes, related to peas, lentils, chickpeas & other beans—they’re loaded with healthful goodness, with almost 8 grams of protein per serving and feature lots of dietary fiber, vitamin E, Niacin, Folate, & Manganese. They’re also a good source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and two high-powered antioxidants: p-Coumaric acid & Resveratrol, the highly-touted component found in red grapes & wine. In fact, peanuts pack in more antioxidants than either apples or carrots!

And you can easily get your fill of those healthful morsels by indulging often in what Lindsey Knerl calls The Poor Man’s Protein or what chef & writer Florence Fabricant refers to as “The pâté of childhood.”

Yup, good ol’ peanut butter!

So, grab up a PBJ and lift a cheer for National Peanut Month!

Me, Metrosexual?

At the end of May each year, Pat Fierro’s students in the Odessa College Massage Therapy program have an internship period during which they amass 50 hours of (wait for it…) hands-on experience in preparation for becoming registered massage therapists.   Karen W. tipped me off about this a couple of years ago.   So each Summer, I look forward to taking advantage of the opportunity for a great massage (or two!) at an incredibly reasonable price.   And over the past weekend I did just that.   It was well worth the wait!
metrosexual cartoon
Likewise, over the past few years, I’ve also become accustomed to getting a pedicure every 4-6 months to alleviate ingrown toenail problems.   So, a few weeks ago, Dede & I visited MCM Eleganté Getaway Spa & Salon for some pedis.   As is customary, Christy did a fantastic (and pain-free) job at whipping my gnarly dogs into tip-top shape for Summer.

And of course, I suppose that I’ve gotta come clean about getting my hair cut at a "salon."   Our pal Jen over at The Palms Salon has been doing my "do" for several years now and I couldn’t possibly keep up my stylish coiffure without her skillfull scissor support.

Not to mention that I moisturize after showering each morning.   Oh, then there’s also the fancy Crest Spinbrush for cleaning & brightening my choppers.   And don’t forget the goo-spitting electric razor & nifty little Wahl beard trimmer…

Sheesh, I’d never really considered all of this cumulatively, but it sure all adds up to a lot of, um, fussy primping & preening for just an average guy.   Sure enough, I’ve unconsciously been a lot more mindful of my general appearance & health since my gastric bypass surgery almost 3 years ago.   Now I’m pretty secure in my manhood, but I started thinking…   This could have me bordering pretty close to metrosexual

metrosexual   (met-roh-SEK-shoo-ul)   n   [coined by Mark Simpson, 1994.]
A usually urban heterosexual male who has a strong aesthetic sense and/or an inordinate interest in appearance and style, similar to that of heterosexual females or homosexual males.

Ack!!   Could it be true?   Am I becoming metro?   Well, hopefully not, but at least I can take solace in knowing that I’m not nearly so extreme or clichéd as the metrosexual hipster doofus pictured above.

Update:   I had a tough time chasing back down the source for the cool cartoon, but Dede finally nudged me in the right direction.   (She is the Google guru, y’know.)   "Nutless Tendroid" and many, many other hilarious "Bane of My Existence" cartoons by Rod Filbrandt can be found at Chowderhead Bazoo.